School of Fine Art University of Leeds Artist

- Higher Education

School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies: A “triumph of design” in a historic setting

— CLIENT
University of Leeds

— SECTOR
Higher Education

— SERVICES
Architecture

— VALUE
£3.3m

— LEAD CONTACTS
Helen O’Curry
Joe Morgan

Challenge

The School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies (FAHACS) at the University of Leeds was spread across campus, and they came to us with the challenge of bringing the school together within a single building.

We had already begun to address these issues as part of our 10-year masterplan for the University, where we had suggested moving the FAHACS to the five-floor Geography Building on the University Road. This presented new challenges, as the building – designed by Paul Waterhouse in 1915 – is listed, and demanded a sensitive approach. At the same time, we needed to design modern, flexible spaces for a 21st-Century teaching building.

Approach + Solution

Rather than working around key historic features of the building, we placed them at the heart of our designs. For instance, we kept to a strategy of limited intervention for the interiors, using a subtle palette of warm grey to highlight white detailing on the ceilings and to open up the spaces. On the third floor, where the building was clearly damaged and much of the timber was rotten, we stripped the existing cladding and replaced it with subtle and easily maintainable zinc on the outside.

Visitors and students enter via a bright, welcoming entrance space, with a new access ramp for disabled people. With an eye to the different subjects being taught within the building, we designed studios which can be transformed easily into lecture theatres or exhibition spaces.

Students and staff alike have been hugely positive about the project, from the proportions of the design to the improved disabled access. It has been described as a “triumph of design”, which “celebrated the history of the building”.

“Working with ADP was a very enjoyable and rewarding experience. They understood precisely what we wanted to achieve: to create versatile, flexible spaces that could change from day to day, week to week; to form a blank canvas for students to make their own. They have certainly achieved that.”

– PROF ABIGAIL HARRISON MOORE, PROFESSOR OF ART HISTORY AND MUSEUM STUDIES, UNIVERSITY OF LEEDS